Faceoff: Cyberduck vs. FileZilla

Cyberduck FileZilla Almost a year ago, I began to write a review of FileZilla, an open source FTP program that appeared to hold promise as a contender for inclusion in the thriftmac collection. Cyberduck has long been the freeware FTP app of choice here, with OneButton FTP a distant but worthy second.

I didn’t get far with the review because I couldn’t get FileZilla to launch, and the sheer ugliness of it made this a relief. In the interim, though, FileZilla has been updated on a regular basis, so I decided to give it another chance.

Lo and behold: not only did it launch — it launched fast. But could it possibly unseat my old favourite, Cyberduck. Read on for a blow-by-blow comparison between Cyberduck 3.0.2 and FileZilla to see who wins.

Launch: both launch almost immediately. Cyberduck used to take a few seconds, but with the latest version is a lot speedier. I have a feeling, though, that it may start to bog down again over time.

Interface overview: FileZilla has four panes. Two on the left represent local files on your hard drive. Two the right represent remote files on a server. The top pane on each side is meant to help you navigate through folders and see what’s inside them as represented by the lower pane. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before in a Mac program, and found it confusing and non-intuitive. Cyberduck has just one pane, which lists the files in a remote server. You double-click on folders to open them as you would in the Finder. There is no pane for local files as there is in FileZilla and other FTP programs such as Transmit, but it’s easy enough to view them in the Finder and drag-and-drop from there.

Toolbar: Cyberduck has only a few icons and it is easy to understand what they do. A customization option allows you to add more. FileZilla’s toolbar is cluttered by comparison, and the icons are both ugly and indecipherable. Below is an example of two particularly bizarre FileZilla icons. Fortunately, tooltips show up when you hover over them.

FileZilla toolbar icons

Connections: Both have a Quick Connection dropdown menu that you can fill with frequently visited sites. Cyberduck also has a collection of bookmarks available at the click of a button. I couldn’t find anything comparable in FileZilla.

Speed: Connecting to the SFTP server used for the thriftmac website took only a couple of seconds with either app. Uploading a 652 KB JPEG took about 40 seconds in both cases.

Ease of use: I’m certain there must be a way to delete remote files, but I couldn’t find it with FileZilla. I checked the sparse documentation and the FAQ at the FileZilla website — nothing. I did a search on “delete” at the forums — nada. I was too embarrassed to actually pose the question. Likely I’ll be embarrassed anyway with a comment below starting with, “Well, all you have to do is . . .” The point, though, is that something so basic should be a snap to figure out.

Advantages to FileZilla: I’ve read reports of FileZilla being faster and more stable. But in my admittedly simple tests I could see no appreciable difference in speed. I’ve used Cyberduck for a few years now, and have never known it to crash or quit in the middle of a transfer — although that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to other people. You may prefer having local and remote files in one window as it can be a nuisance sometimes to navigate to the local files you want in the Finder. But if this is the case, you might be better off splurging for Transmit or Yummy FTP.

Advantages to Cyberduck: Cyberduck is easier to use, has a polished interface and fits in nicely with the Mac experience. Unless you have specialized needs or strongly held preferences, you’re best avoiding FileZilla and sticking with Cyberduck.

The winner: Cyberduck wins. FileZilla can be a struggle to use at times, but it does indeed work as advertised and so has earned a place in the thriftmac collection.

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